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Sack Walt Bell now ‘in the best interests of the future’ of UMass football

AMHERST – UMass sporting director Ryan Bamford has historically waited to make managerial changes until the end of a season, but he recognized the need for a move earlier when the sack was fired. football coach Walt Bell over the weekend.

“While I certainly would have hoped for better results and given us a chance to assess all of the work in 12 games,” Bamford said on Monday, “I think it was in the best interest of the future of the program to get us to a position, especially as we start to think about rebuilding and building the roster. “

The Minutemen lost 35-22 to FCS Rhode Island at McGuirk Alumni Stadium, a loss to a lower division opponent with fewer resources and purses available. UMass (1-8) have lost their last three games, with Bell going 2-23 during his nearly three-year tenure. The 37-year-old head coach was hired in December 2018.

The Minutemen were 1-11 in 2019 before losing all four games last season in a year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in every way.

At one point, UMass enjoyed the nation’s longest active losing streak (which he shared with Arizona in 16 games) before defeating UConn on October 9. The Minutemen have lost every other game this season by at least two scores. Their average defeat margin was almost 35 points per game.

“We have to develop and we have to be competitive and we have to win games. And we unfortunately haven’t been competitive in a number of our games this year. And then obviously some of the games that I felt we had a very good chance of winning we couldn’t convert into wins, ”said Bamford.

“And in the third year, you want to see that progress. And that didn’t necessarily mean it had to be just victories, but it had to be marked progress, and I felt like we weren’t reaching that goal anymore. “

Defensive coordinator Tommy Restivo, who has been with Bell throughout his tenure, has also been sacked. Offensive line coach – and 2006 alumnus – Alex Miller will be the team’s interim head coach.

“It was an emotional day. Whichever way you slice it, you have to deal with these emotions. Outside of this building, no one will care about our emotions, but we have to deal with them and get on with the day, ”Miller said.

“I only care about the current day. I’m not worried about Saturday (against Maine). My goal is to deliver a product that the kids can be proud of, their families can be proud of, and more importantly the guys who’ve ever worn this jersey – me being an alum, being connected to these guys – when that whistle will sound the next weekends, I just want to make sure these guys are proud of what we’re doing on the pitch.

Bell still had two years on the five-year contract he signed when he was hired. UMass owes him his remaining compensation for the remainder of this year and 75% of the $ 625,000 he owes each of the next two years. But if Bell gets another job – which Bamford has said he expects – then whatever salary he is paid it will be deducted from what UMass owes him.

“This will help us. These funds will come from different sources, none of which is a general operating fund, ”said Bamford. “We have built up reserves in unrestricted fundraising accounts and through other means.

“I would expect that we would not pay close to the dollar amount owed to him on the basis of the contract. These will come from funds that are not government or operating funds on our general ledger from a financial point of view. “

Bamford praised Bell’s contributions to team culture from an academic, community service and “citizenship” perspective. Their conversation when Bell was let go lasted around 15 to 20 minutes, Bamford said.

“He’s a real professional in that regard and he wanted to make sure that this program, which he took care of for two and a half, three years, would be useful to him when he left it. (He) asked if there was anything he could do to make sure the transition went smoothly, ”Bamford said.

“I think he knows we can win here and he wants to make sure that by leaving the next successful candidate has a chance to do so. He’s recruited most of this list at this point and really wants these kids to be successful. “

UMass will likely act quickly enough to put their new coach in place as there is an early signing period starting on December 15th. Most football rookies sign at the start of the period now rather than national signing day in February, so it’s important to have someone somewhere to both try to keep current UMass commits and try to attract new players, mainly from the transfer portal.

New NCAA regulations allow players to transfer once without sitting down for a year, and in this upcoming class, teams will be allowed to sign up to seven players beyond the traditional 25-person cap to help compensate for transfer losses.

“We cannot miss a recruiting round,” Bamford said. “This is a very important signing class for us.

Bamford said he did not have a preferred profile for the new coach. He recruited up-and-coming young coaches for his previous football and men’s basketball rookies (Bell and Matt McCall), but turned to established veterans to lead the hockey (Greg Carvel) and basketball programs. women’s ball (Tory Verdi) five years ago.

“I am wide open. I think when you go into coaching research you usually try to draft a sense of where you want to land in terms of fit and culture, ”Bamford said.

“I’m interested in knowing from the head coaches who are candidates for us how they want to replenish our roster, what is culturally important to them and how they will continue to represent our department and our university. We are not a program that cuts corners.

Anyone who brings UMass will likely have more money to work with, both for themselves and for their assistants. Bamford called the increase in the coaches’ payroll “of prime importance”.

“We lost under Coach Bell, under (former) Coach Mark Whipple, really talented coaches, and it’s not just about the money. Part of that is because of the responsibility, the role and things like that, but I think we need to be more competitive in the way we pay our coaching staff.

“We’re working on it now to figure out exactly what we think we can fund based on future income, but there will be an upgrade in that regard,” Bamford said. “Every time you change coaches, if you stay where you are, you are not meeting the needs of the program and ultimately that next head coach, and we are fully aware that we have to keep investing. any further. money.”

Kyle Grabowski can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.